Life in a Time of Pandemic: Diving into Hobbies

Cross stitch of a jar of fireflies with the words Be the light incorporated in the design.
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This one isn’t going to be talking too heavily about the pandemic itself, but I still wanted to tag it as such for those who just want a break from talking/thinking/reading about anything relating to it.

For the rest of you, this is going to be a lot more about crafting and writing and hobbying in general than anything else.  I was inspired to write about this because the university I work for started up a recuring series of stories on our staff/faculty newsletter/newspaper article site about all the hobbies people are picking up, or diving further into, because of the pandemic.

The stay-at-home to keep your exposure risk down mentality has had me fairly confined to my apartment.  Since March, I’ve only really left my apartment for groceries and other essentials, a few doctor and dentist appointments, and one week-long staycation at my in-laws (we all had a two-week quarantine prior to and right after).  It’s meant a lot of time that used to be devoted to things like my daily commute (about 2 hours total per workday) and driving to various social things (easily a recovery of another 2-3 hours each week) are now time I have for other things.

Not all of this time is going to a hobby.  About half an hour of my morning commute time is now devoted to more sleep, for example.  But the new daily routine I’ve worked out for pandemic conditions is helping with my commitments to my hobbies and my ability to follow through with them.

Prior to the pandemic, I took a regional express bus to work.  It’s about 30 minutes on the bus in low-traffic (my morning commute window) and 45-60 minutes in high traffic (my evening commute window, time highly dependent on driver and whether they take the shoulder when allowed).  This time has usually been writing time for me.  One NaNoWriMo, I started doing sprints with others on our online spaces during my commute, then the time between when I got to the office and when I had to start work at eight.  In Pandemic conditions, that has transitioned to being a 20-minute sprint called by chat bots every day at 7am, 7:30am, and 8am.  I usually make one or two of them every day, and there are a few other regular attendees who join me.  This has turned into an amazingly consistent morning writing habit.  I even get up that early on weekends now (though that’s more about consistent sleep times being better overall).  This regularity, started in October as NaNo Prep, has led to a daily writing streak over 130 days long already.  I’m a little amazed at myself.  And even if I’m only making one sprint a day, that’s 20 minutes, and I can rack up a significant amount of words or editing work over the course of a week or a month even with just 20 minutes a day.  It’s been pretty amazing how productive I’ve been so far this year.

My evening recovered commute time hasn’t been devoted to writing as much as my morning recovered commute time.  It’s allowed my partner and I to be a little more intentional with dinner timing.  I have a post-work routine set up where I’ll wash my face and do the other little hygiene things I do at night, and then help him finish up dinner prep.  It’s nice to have that time with him each night sharing a meal and enjoying a little time together.  After that is my time to either hang out with him longer, do a little online socializing, game, or engage in another hobby.  And of course weekends end up involving my hobbies now that out of the house socializing isn’t an option anymore.

So what else have I been getting up to?

Almost all of the hobbies I’ve dived back into or added to my hobby collection are needle crafts.  I’ve enjoyed sewing for years now and I’ve taken some of the recovered time during the pandemic to finish off some works in progress and things from my pending sewing projects pile, as well as starting a few completely new things.  I’ve also started trying my hand at cross-stitch.  I mentioned some of this in a recent post about crafting goals for this February, and I’ve posted about the memory bears project I finished for a friend.

One of the first projects was new flannel pants for me that fit properly, had pockets, and had the just enough to seal around the leg style elastic at the bottom.  I made one pair out of jersey too but the pattern didn’t translate quite as well to the stretchier material.  I’m most proud of this pair of rainbow heart pants.  I pattern matched the pocket and it just looks so lovely.

A pair of flannel pants made from a white fabric with a rainbow pattern of hearts featuring a patch pocket sewn on to match the pattern below it.

The biggest project since March was finishing up the memory bears I’d agreed to make for a friend.  With six of them to do and a decent amount of prep needed on the various fabric pieces, it took a lot of time, but I’m very proud of them.  Since I’ve covered this type of project on the blog before I’m not going to go too in depth about it here, but I’m very proud of the set I completed for her.

I’ve also been working on other little things, like mending that I’ve been putting off, converting a few old pairs of jeans into skirts, and I have some fabric that arrived in the mail this week to make a new button-front blouse for myself.  I’ve been wanting to make more of my own clothes for a while now because I can’t seem to find things that fit properly and are made well these days.  It ends up costing me time, and sometimes the fabric supplies are more expensive than just buying a new shirt, but being able to make the pattern exactly fit me so that it looks good and knowing that the construction and finishing will hold up to the test of time (and are all things I’m capable of fixing and repairing) is worth it.

In a completely different and more decorative direction, I’ve been trying my hand at cross-stitch.  I actually started because I had some old craft kits from my mom (copyright on the directions is from the 1970s).  I made a few of them a couple years ago that were coasters.  Basically, it was cross stitch with yarn, a big plastic needle, and the plastic grid stuff you can find at craft stores.  The last kit I had was crewel work.  It was a bookmark, so a material similar to what cross-stitch uses but with wider warp/weft threads with a picture printed on it.  I followed the directions to make free-hand embroidery stitches that followed the printed picture.  It was a ladybug on a stem with leaves, and it actually came out quite nicely.

It was really nice to get a physical thing out of it, so when I was spending down a gift card to a craft store, I included some cross-stitch kits.  This had mixed results.  The first two, which were very cheap in their defense, didn’t have enough embroidery floss included in the right colors.  I had some super close embroidery floss (mine was glossy while the kit came with matte, but the color was almost exact) so I was able to finish my first kit, which was a little baby dragon.

The next kit looked like it might have done a little better, but I also planned for what to do if I ran out of thread, so I was able to make an adaptation to the pattern to use more of colors I had and less of the color I ran out of.  This one is a Unicorn, and I’m quiet proud of my on the fly adaptation of it to accommodate the lack of thread I needed.  I’m gifting this one to my niece for her birthday.

The third kit was a much better kit (it was also more expensive).  It came with an actual hoop and more than enough of every thread I needed.  I even still have extra thread.  This one took longer, mostly because it was bigger and the stitch counting was a bit more complicated with all the gaps.  I’m pretty sure I did something slightly out of alignment with the pattern, but no one is likely to be able to tell, so it’s fine.  It was a nice project to work on while chatting with friends online or while watching a twitch stream or anything else that struck my fancy.  I also just love the message of this one, it resonates with me.

Cross stitch of a jar of fireflies with the words Be the light incorporated in the design.

I have a fourth kit from that initial order, which is a paisley cat design.  I’m looking forward to that one and may even try to incorporate it into something bigger like a throw pillow.  Or maybe it will just be another think I hang on my wall.  We’ll see.  Before I get back to that I’m trying to finish up the February sewing project goals.

I’ve completed one skirt and I’m down to the seam finishing on the second skirt.  After that I’m starting on the mockup of the shirt, which will then be recreated from both the new material I have on order and the material from a shirt that matches one of the pairs of jeans I’ve converting into a skirt.  I’m hoping the shirt turns out well in mockup, because then I can take the mockup apart and use it as a definitive pattern for a shirt that fits me the way I want.  Having a pattern made out of muslin will hold up better than one made out of pattern paper, which is only slightly more durable than tissue paper for those unfamiliar with it.

So that’s where my crafting and hobbying has been since March.  There’s been an incredible amount of writing, and a decent amount of sewing and other needle craft creation happening.  It’s another one of the silver linings that’s come out of the pandemic for me.  I’m devoting more time to the things that make me happy and give me joy and a sense of accomplishment.  I’m hoping I can carry some of these things (like the regular sleeping schedule) with me after pandemic conditions are over and make them part of my normal from now on.

If you’ve taken up (or dived deeper into) any new hobbies lately, I’d love to hear about them.

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